Intellectual Property

Apple v. Samsung Demonstrates Problems With Patent System

Patents are impeding innovation and hurting consumers


We wrote last week that Apple and Samsung would be better off — and their consumers would be better served — if the tech giants took their epic patent battle out of the courtroom and into the marketplace.

On Friday, the jury found that Samsung infringed a host of Apple's patents and awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages. That's more than a billion less than Apple had demanded and a small drop for Samsung in the grand scheme of things. But it's real money nonetheless, and that's before the injunctions.

The way the press reported the verdict, one would think the outcome was unexpected or unusual. But really, this case is just the latest in a long line of high-stakes patent litigation, each an instance of a patent system fundamentally unmoored from its constitutional goal. Sure, this case had some interesting elements: patents allegedly covering 3G technology, Apple's ability to protect the functional designs of its products, and so on. In that regard, Apple v. Samsung is nothing new.